All activities enlarge the life experiences, enhance decision making and life skills, build character, and develop the leadership potential of our members. Each WILL Year looks similar to what is discussed below but has its own special essence.
Special emphasis is given to teaching and setting SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound). Goals work takes places throughout the year and there is a full goal-focused day where individual goals are reviewed and discussed. The group provides feedback on one another’s goals in candid and practical discussions. The value of this life skill is reflected in the words of Rashid, a recent graduate:
“WILL taught me how to set reasonable goals and to use action plans and determination to reach them.”
In October, WILL kick offs its year of experiential learning and leadership development with a challenge/ropes course. Goals for day include: getting acquainted, fostering teamwork, decision making, and communication skills, and stretching comfort zones so WILL youth begin to realize there are no boundaries to what each can accomplish.
“I did an activity that I’d never thought I’d do.
It helped me realize that I can do anything I set my mind to.”
“The ropes course was a time where we didn’t know each other and we started to trust each other more after that day. I set some goals to complete and I did.”
Heart of the Region
The Chesapeake Bay and its watershed are the heart and soul of the Mid-Atlantic. The Anacostia and Potomac Rivers are arteries to this heart. In November, WILL members board the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s (CBF’s) boat The Susquehanna to learn about the Chesapeake Bay, the wide expanse of the Bay Watershed, the integral role that the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers play in the Watershed, and our role in keeping the Bay healthy.
“Nature is very important for us. We should know how to save the environment.” – Jose
“Working with CBF we are close to the water, we can feel it, smell it, see it, and learn about it.”- Marc
WILL’s Holiday Party
Creativity, teamwork, and communication abound at WILL’s December Holiday Party. WILL members decorate the party room in true holiday style and design their new holiday stockings. Families then join us for a tasty meal, discussion about WILL, our mission and goals, and festivities include a special, personal gift for each WILL member to commemorate the first part of his/her year-long WILL adventure.
“For me, being in WILL was like being in family.”- Jose
WILL graduates meet during the holidays to reminisce about their WILL experiences, laugh, and learn what old and new WILL friends are doing.
Wellness/Nutrition & Cultural Appreciation Days
Our body is an engine and WILL’s goal is to provide skills and tools for WILL participants to make healthy nutrition and hydration decisions. Monica Silvestro, a renowned Certified Holistic Health Counselor (Monica’s website address is: www.yourintuitivehealth.com), engages WILL participants in lively discussions about healthy eating and beverage choices, portion size, reading packages for nutritional content, and the benefits of organic over processed foods. During the afternoons of these insightful days, we learn about and experience South American and Persian music and cultures, and WILL members have the unique hands-on experience of playing instruments like the bombo legüero, daf, and tombak.
“I learned to look at the nutrition labels. If there is a long list of things I don’t know or cannot pronounce, I don’t eat it.”- Luis
“Music and arts are expressions from our soul and our identity. Learning and listening to others’ music can make you learn about their culture.” – Arthur
Martin Luther King Day
We discuss Dr. King, civil rights, and the concepts of diversity and respect for everyone. We watch Freedom Writers, which tells the true story about a teacher in a urban high school who inspires her at-risk students to accomplish their goals and how diversity and tolerance enlarge all our lives.
“Everyone needs to think back to when all of these events happened and reflect on what we need to do today to protect MLK’s vision.” – Mira
Day at the Newseum
WILL spends an incredible day at The Newseum learning about historic and current events. WILL members stand inside the Unabomber’s cabin, see the largest portion of the Berlin Wall outside of Germany and peer inside a three-story East German guard tower that loomed near Checkpoint Charlie, we experience a moving tribute to photojournalist William Biggart who died covering the 911 attacks in New York, and have fun in the interactive newsroom experiencing what it is like to be an on air reporter.
“We came to the Newseum to learn history in a fun way.” – Michaelann
A Day at the Lanes
On Presidents’ Day, to promote group cohesion and have fun bowling, WILL members take advantage of a scheduled day off from school at DC’s Lucky Strike lanes.
“One thing the bowling experience can give a person as a leader is participating, communicating, supporting each other, and having fun as a group.” – Samrawit
CPR & 1st Aid
A lead instructor from Wilderness Medical Associates who taught Steve his Wilderness First Responder course provides an excellent day of beneficial practical knowledge which WILL youth can use to assist others in situations they may encounter, including the Heimlich maneuver; CPR (everyone practices on a mannequin) and to use well aimed direct pressure to stop a bleeding wound.
“We learned CPR and some first aid so we can help others and possibly save a life.”- Tatiana
Behind the Scenes at The Kennedy Center
We are graciously hosted by Mickey Berra, who has worked at The Kennedy Center since it opened, rising from stage hand to his current position running the production side of the KC. We learn what it takes to bring a production to the stage, and stand on the Opera House and Eisenhower Theater stages where the world’s most famous artists have performed.
“We got the experience of knowing what happens behind the scenes of shows. My favorite thing was going on the Opera stage.” -Briyana
“We came to The Kennedy Center to appreciate the culture.” – Jon
Spring Break on the Bay
During spring break, we spend 3 days with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) at its Karen Noonan Center. WILL members broaden their environmental/ecological education and understanding of the Bay and its watershed begun in the fall. We learn more about sediment and nutrients, climate change and erosion, the important filtration and habitat benefits of the marsh, we explore and remove debris from barrier islands, dredge on an oyster bar, set crab pots, make s’mores and tell stories around a roaring campfire, canoe, do leadership initiatives, learn Leave No Trace ethics, and expand our knowledge of the Bay’s importance and our role in its future. The KNC trip provides a wonderful opportunity to be out of the city and to have many new experiences, including seeing magnificent sunsets and sunrises, ospreys, and bald eagles.
“We came to the KNC to escape from our own worlds and get into the world of nature. I got to do FUN things that I never do at home. Watching the sunset and sunrise was beautiful and relaxing.” – Mankah
College Admissions Forum & Expedition Orientation
Representatives from local and national colleges introduce WILL members and their families to the “mysteries” of the college admissions process, financing college tuition, and the DC Tuition Assistance Grant (TAG) program. During the day we also discuss the Expedition, answer questions, allay fears, set expectations, and encourage participants to be open to the experience, which will challenge us all in different ways.
“The WILL College Admissions Forum is a great opportunity for students to hear about various aspects of the college admissions process from knowledgeable professionals representing diverse institutions. I especially appreciate the opportunity to interact with such talented and motivated students.” – Sharon Alston, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Enrollment, American University.
“I’ve learned there are many scholarships out there and that is a very important thing for me because it deals with me going to college or not.” – Luis
Leaders care about others and the community in which they live. WILL members participate in a full-day service project working with the Anacostia Watershed Society (AWS). This service learning is environmental – whether removing invasive plants, doing wetland planting, building goose fence to protect wetland plants, or removing debris from the Anacostia watershed, WILL plays a regular role in the revival of the Anacostia. We do additional service through the year, including volunteering at the Capital Area Food Bank.
“The Community Service Project is important to help out our community and keep it clean, and healthy, and safe. And make the world a better place.” – Alley
“Along with community service hours, we get the feeling of doing something good for the environment.”-Tessa
Scavenger Hunt on the National Mall
WILL members have an exhilarating day learning about our Nation’s history and finding hidden gems in the monuments, memorials, and museums along the Mall, such as: how many columns surround the Lincoln Memorial and what they represent; what do the stars on the Wall of Freedom at the WW II Memorial represent; what is the name of the boat in Winslow Homer’s Breezing Up; and how many lions are in Reubens’ Daniel in the Lions’ Den?
“This once-in-a-lifetime experience allowed me to explore parts of my own city that I never thought I would explore. It also unleashed the part of me that enjoys history and art.” – Rolando
“We do the scavenger hunt to learn something new about American history, art, and to use our brains.”-Kenisha
Summer Expedition on the Appalachian Trail
In conjunction with the Baltimore-Chesapeake Bay Outward Bound Center, WILL members backpack for 7 days on the Pennsylvania Section of the Appalachian Trail. Through this challenging outdoor experience, WILL members continue to practice goal setting, develop greater self-confidence and trust in others, accountability for decisions and behavior and learn and perfect wilderness and Leave No Trace skills.
“There were a couple of times during the Expedition when I just wanted to give up, but one thing I learned in WILL is never say ‘I can’t’ and ‘don’t give up’. I definitely wouldn’t even have a shot at my goals if every time it got hard I quit.” -Tessa
“WILL has given me many tools that I can use in the future. The Expedition, in particular, opened my eyes to learning about myself and what I can do when I push myself.” – Tom
WILL members are prepared to make good decisions and for the challenges that await them. Financial literacy is a key life skill in today’s world – understanding the power of money and the importance of good credit.
Canoeing on the Anacostia River
This experience provides an engaging outdoor activity and the rare chance for WILL participants to see Great Blue Herons and Snowy Egrets up close. It also provides the opportunity for WILL teens to see the poor condition of the River, and our role in the current and future health of the Anacostia.
“My favorite activity was canoeing on the Anacostia because before I did that I didn’t know what was in the river. Now I know we are polluting the river.” -AJ
“Vicki and I had to work together to prevent going in the wrong direction.” – Bernadet
WILL alumni gather to enjoy a summer afternoon, to reminisce and remember their WILL experience, and to share what each is doing and the ongoing impact of their WILL year on their thinking and behavior.
In September, WILL members who successfully complete the year and their families gather at the National Postal Museum to celebrate and honor their accomplishments and their year of new experiences and experiential learning.
Some words that members use to describe their WILL experience – “incredible, amazing, wonderful, challenging, fun, extraordinary, interesting, achievement, lucky, change, unique, wacky, different, awesome, adventurous, reborn, exhilarating.”